78th Communications Directorate: Connecting Air Force to world

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • Robins Public Affairs

Imagine being responsible for the maintenance of nearly 18,000 desktop and laptop computers, making sure the network those devices connect to is functioning - all while fielding hundreds of troubleshooting calls.

Welcome to the world of the 78th Communications Directorate at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. Their mission serves as the technology backbone at Robins.

“I work in the First Response Service Center,” said Tony Toong, a help desk professional with the directorate.  “The center is where we take calls from customers having computer issues, and we try to resolve it on the first call.”

Even though some days his ears are riddled with fiery words from frustrated customers, Toong still loves his jobs 20 years later.

“I like being able to help people. Sometimes you get some unfriendly people, but you deal with it,” laughed Toong. “Most are good and I work with them. If you let them vent and agree with them it calms them. Then, I can get them to tell me step by step what happened and work toward a solution.”

Toong is one of 12 technicians working at the First Response Service Center.

Since the increase in teleworking began at Robins, the need for assistance increased from 150 to 400 in daily call volume. That number has since leveled off to between 150-200 calls per day.

In March, at the start of the pandemic, more than 10,000 people worked from home. The number now hovers around 5,500 for virtual workers.

“Since the onset of COVID-19, the Air Force has invested a lot of money to ensure the infrastructure is in-place to support telework,” said Robert Coleman, 78th Communications Directorate acting deputy director. “We are continuing to focus at Robins on how to improve the information technology experience on and off base.”

Coleman said by the end of the year, workers using computers on base will be able to access the network faster.

This will be accomplished by upgrading all network connections that are currently creating a bottleneck situation.

“The entire base will be expanding to a 10 gigabyte network,” said Coleman. “Currently, some devices are connecting with one or two gigabytes. You are going fast, and then it is like going from a three-lane road down to a one-lane road, because all of the traffic is trying to get into one lane at the same time.”

Coleman is certain that upgrades will bring about a vast improvement to the network.

Another area this team covers is the voice services branch. This includes phone communications via land lines or cellular service.

“The magnitude of what we do is huge. We have some extremely talented individuals working with us,” he added.

It’s all part of the united effort to keep the Air Force connected to the world.